Karen Armstrong, a religious historian who has debunked some of the most virulent stereotypes against Islam, is in Malaysia this week to promote peace and better understanding between Islam and the West.

During her visit, the first to this region, Armstrong will speak at a conference organized by the Institute of Diplomacy and Foreign Relations (lDFR) on Islam and the West. She will also deliver a public lecture. Details are as below:

Title : The Role of Religion in the 21st Century

Date : 16 June, 2007

Time : 10.00am

Venue : Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

In addition, Armstrong will speak at the Inter-Civilizational Youth Engagement Programme (lYEP), a dialogue that will be attended by 50 young people from all over the world. The dialogue is arranged by the five non-governmental organisations represented on the left. Event details are as below:

Date : June 17-June 20

Venue : Residence Hotel, Kajang, Selangor

There will also be a Press Conference held by the International Movement For a Just World (JUST) president Dr Chandra Muzaffar who will introduce Armstrong to the Malaysian media.

Date : 17 June, 2007

Time : 11.00 am

Venue : Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur

Armstrong, a former Roman Catholic nun and one of the English-speaking world's foremost commentators on religion, is also a broadcaster, columnist and a best-selling author. Several of her books have been translated into over 40 languages.

Her work is acknowledged for its level of scholarship, and for the respect with which she treats her subjects. While some critics claim she is an apologist for Islam, her writings have helped immeasurably to clarify Islam's position on many issues.

Although her work is scholarly, it is accessible to the general reader as she focuses on the political implications of religion and theology. Her books are read not only by Western audiences, but also by Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus.

In 1991, she published Muhammad: A Western Attempt to Understand Islam. This was her response, she says, to the bigotry against Islam that arose after the infamous Salman Rushdie fatwa.

In one of her many interviews in recent years, Armstrong said September 11 revealed "a new awareness" striking at the integrity of Western culture and its value system.

"We were posing as a tolerant society, yet passing judgment from a position of extremes and irrationality."

September 11, she said, confirmed a prejudice against Islam that is centuries old, which is that Islam is inherently violent and intolerant of others.

"Anti-Islamic doctrine is in-built in the Western ethos that was formulated during the Crusades."

Since September 11th she has become chiefly known for her work on Islam, particularly in the United States.

She has twice addressed members of the United States Congress, was one of three scholars to speak in the United Nations in the first session ever devoted to religion in that body, and has also been invited to advise members of the Canadian parliament on relations with the Islamic world.

In June 2002, she gave the keynote address at the annual convention of the American Muslim Council, and is currently involved in a major project to develop an intellectually strong and pluralistic American Islam with leading members of the Muslim community there.

Her books include: A History of God [1993], which became an international bestseller; Jerusalem, One City, Three Faiths [1996]; The Battle for God, A History of Fundamentalism [2000]; Islam, A Short History [2000]; Buddha (2001); The Spiral Staircase: A Memoir (2004); A Short History of Myth (2005).The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions (2006); and finally Muhammad: A Prophet for our Time (2006).

For more information on the public lecture, dialogue and press conference, please contact: Maria Yan or Ghazali at 03-79603207

(source: JUST)